Posts tagged comic review
Comic Review: A Tale of Sand by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl–illustrations by Ramon K. Perez
Review by Prof. Jenn
A Tale of Sand is a screenplay written by the late great Jim Henson, which never saw the light of movie day. It was written back in 1974, the heyday of Henson’s immense creative output, and one can very much experience said creativity by reading A Tale of Sand. To have this surreal screenplay illustrated sketchbook style by an artist such as Perez only enhances the experience–I opine that this is better as a sketchbook-cum-comic than it would have been as a 1970s film.
The story follows Everyman Mac, who is on a quest for he knows not what (except that he really wants to light that last cigarette). He meets strange people and places as he crosses the desert, some of which are attempting to hinder him, not the least of which are the sinister Patch and mysterious Blonde. When Mac finally reaches the end of his journey, it’s not at all what he (or the reader) imagines.
The illustrations are pleasingly sketchbook-like, some unfinished and some inked to perfection. It adheres well to the odd dreamlike quality of the adventure. There is plenty of backstory about the project in the forms of introductions and afterwords (though in the Afterword, we read about how the lettering was created and handled, and we see colorized, more finished versions of some of the pages–did I miss something in my Press version of the book?), which again gives us another window into the fertile mind that was Henson’s oeuvre, including and beyond the brilliant Muppets.
Bottom Line: bar my confusion as to whether I’ve been given a different version, I still highly recommend A Tale of Sand.
Comic Review X2: Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead and Springheeled Jack
Reviews by: Prof. Jenn
Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead by Richard Corben
The well-thought-out introduction to this collection states that Poe’s oeuvre is one of the most frequently comic-ized bodies of literature around. The dark subject matter and often taut tension makes for a good image-to-text pairing, I would guess, and the mysterious nature of much of the subject matter lends well to the interstitial storytelling of comics. Being able to read between the frames is especially appropriate for the unhinged characters and strange plots of Poe.
If only this collection rose to the occasion.
What I liked:
- The androgynous, Faerie-ike narrator character, Mag, who looks as though she stepped right out of Brian Froud’s Faeries, and who links all the stories together like a TV host.
- The brief, sometimes one-frame flashes of a dream-like world within a real one. It’s an entertainingly jarring effect, like in films Natural Born Killers or Fight Club.
What I didn’t like:
- The art is so grotesque as to be distracting to the storytelling. In a Poe collection the emphasis should be on a twisted dream world or world of madness, as graphically violent as the stories can sometimes get. The art doesn’t evoke Poe, but goes beyond the grotesque into the just, well, gross.
- While I can appreciate that putting the Poe stories (and especially poems) into a different medium requires some adaptation, blatantly changing the endings to stories, or rewriting events is taking adaptation too far. The worst culprit of this treatment is “The Raven”–not only is it no longer in verse, but in brutal, sparse prose, with a completely different outcome to the climax of the narrative. What was a psychological thriller (with a verse rhythm well-suited to illustration) turns into a badly written gory slasher film.
Springheeled Jack by David Hitchcock
It’s not every day you see a black and white graphic novel, and it’s rarer still when it is richer than many full color ones. Springheeled Jack is a masterful graphic novel which takes a real legend from Victorian England and spins explanations (and other literatures, characters, etc. from that era) into a compelling Twilight-Zone-like story.
This book won an Eagle Award for Favorite Black and White Comic, and it’s easy to see why. The richness of the grayscale matches the London fog of the setting (and the morose mood of our protagonist) perfectly, and the detail in each panel is astounding. Those who like to read the fine print in their comics, both in words and in images, will enjoy savoring each page of this book, even as they can’t wait to turn said pages, to see what will happen next.
The terror of Springheeled Jack was an unsolved mystery that pervaded the mid-1800s streets of London–what devil-like horror was it that killed and disappeared so many people? This story takes a plausibly creative sci-fi turn on the “true” events and also ends on an amorphous enough note that we can hope the story will continue.
Bottom Line: I highly recommend Springheeled Jack for comic lovers, steampunk aficionados, and anyone else who likes a thriller with sci fi flavors.
Comics Review: Crime Does Not Pay vol. 8: ed. Philip R. Simon
Review by Prof. Jenn
The 8th volume of vintage comics, Crime Does Not Pay, is an entertaining collection of not only vintage true crime comic stories but a delightful and instructional collection of vintage ads as well. Remember when I reviewed volume 5? Well volume 8 is even more entertaining as well as historically educational.
The true crime stories in this volume are more gruesome than in volume 5, and more diverse, as we have female villains in this as well as your customary male ’30s-’40s gangster types. The ghostly narrator character is back, celebrating his acolytes’ descent into worse and worse malfeasance, until their comeuppance causes the repeated declaration, Crime Does Not Pay. The art is colorful and newspaper-y in style, and the ads are a continued delight in historical study and odd nostalgia, as are the letters to the editor. Two dollars for a published letter? Count me in…
Bottom Line: The Crime Does Not Pay series is a fun read and an excellent exercise in edutainment.
Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel–We’re Needed #2 by Edginton, Cosentino, et. al
Review by: Prof. Jenn
We’ve come to the part in the story (from the old Avengers TV series) when our heroes Mr. Steed and Mrs. Peel are in such a pinch we can’t imagine how they will get out of it. Mrs. Peel is interviewing sinister twin criminals and following up on her clues, and Steed is in a particularly precarious situation, vulnerable to the villain of the story. It’s tense and investigatory, as a good Avengers episode should be.
The art continues to be consistently high quality (with an especially lovely cover painting of Mrs. Peel) and works well as storytelling. The characters look enough like Macnee and Rigg that we know who they are, but not so much like actor portraits that we are taken out of the fictional world.
Bottom Line: This is a great series and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
This is it, folks. The thrilling conclusion of 24 Underground is finally upon us. There’s a lot of action in this one including a big showdown in the end between the Russians, Jack Bauer, and the CIA. Will Jack escape both groups that are after him? Considering how Live Another Day starts, you can kinda take a guess, but it’s still some edge-of-your-seat excitement right up until the last page. My only complaint was that the ending wasn’t totally satisfying for me but that’s probably just me not wanting to let go. This miniseries did a great job of filling in the gap between seasons of the show, and was a lot of fun to both read and write about. I’m going to miss having Jack Bauer in my life, but I know it’s time to move on to other obsessions (like the new season of Doctor Who that is starting. Are you with me?) I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Comic Review: The Star Wars by Rinzler, Mayhew, et. al
Review by Prof. Jenn
So this is a comic trade that is based off of George Lucas’ original-original rough draft of the screenplay for The Star Wars. That is, Star Wars before it got edited for quality and way before it got re-purposed for less quality and more busy unnecessary additions.
I have my opinions, more as a literature expert than an old-school Star Wars nerd, though I must confess I am equally both. It’s important that Han shot first, but I can actually explain to you literarily why. The scene at the Millennium Falcon added in w/Jabba? Completely unnecessary. But I’ve got the literary chops to explain why, beyond my nerd rage.
Now, it seems that several geek-culture favorites these days tend to fall into the trap of the fan-service. The fan-service is the thing that happens in the story of a new episode of a thing that does nothing for the actual plot except show a thing that will make fans squee. See: the entire movie Phantom Menace. See also: the ending of Doctor Who episode “Deep Breath.” (We can talk about this later if you like.)
This comic story is based on Star Wars before it was Star Wars: we’ve got snippets of images of all three of the older movies (Tatooine, betrayed youg’uns, snippets of Yavin and the Wookiees very similar to the Ewok uprising in RotJ, a Leia and, well, Annikin romance but he’s really the Luke character in this story), some themes and dreary plot points from the newer movies (politics, trade embargoes, wily and lying politicians, overly ornate headgear for the Princess/Queen), and all the art smacks of the concept art all us Star Wars nerds know and love from the pen of Ralph McQuarrie. The oddly androgynous C-3PO, the Luke Starkiller with the buzzcut mullet, the green-skinned amphibious Han Solo, and the oddly bug-eyed Chewbacca all come from McQuarrie’s illustrations we all know and love.
Thing is, when you read this, you can really appreciate the changes made to Episodes 4-6. You really can. You can appreciate the available charm of its characters, its streamlined Hero’s Journey of an action-based plot, and its iconic tropes buffered to a new sheen. The story of this comic is tired, too complex, too wordy in ways no one speaks (okay well all the movies are like this too) and, well, basically, nothing really…happens.
What this is is fan service: for those of us who were obsessed with this epic series and who wanted more from the prequels, those of us who appreciated the streamlined storytelling before Lucas got the tech and was allowed to add in extraneous whatever-he-wanted, this is a window into the writing process and indeed the creative process itself.
It’s not a great comic.
Bottom line: I don’t recommend this to anyone but the most completionist collector or the most die-hard Star Wars fan. It’s a dreary, plodding, clunkily-drawn peek into an early draft of a movie series we’re glad got edited from it. It’s fun to see McQuarrie’s creations in a sort of action, though.
I gotta say, I was a little thrown off at first by the style of this book. Having not read the previous issue of this series, I didn’t know what to expect. Once I got past that though, the story itself sucked me in pretty quickly. I also immediately recognized the fact that while I might not love the photojournalistic style of this book, other people would probably love it since it does make you feel like you’re watching an episode of TOS appear on the pages.
You can even hear the voices of the characters come to life in your head with each bit of dialogue. It also helps that the story is pretty solid and enjoyable to read. Overall I was pleasantly surprised with how this one played out, and would recommend it to the real Trekkies out there who would like a fresh taste of the old series.
Dark Engine by Ryan Burton and John Bivens is a new comic that plenty of my friends have been waiting on, and after reading it, I’m reasonably certain that no one has been or will be disappointed. First of all, the cover art is really nifty, portraying the focus of the comic, a girl who looks fierce and incredibly intimidating with a giant sword. I’m certainly not an artist, but I really like the style of art being shown in this comic. It’s very otherworldly, and definitely helps to transport you into the chaos within the story.
From the beginning, this comic throws you into a world that is unlike anything that we are used to. There are a surplus of creatures that somehow fall between prehistoric and alien in appearance. We meet the girl from the cover rather quickly. As expected, she quickly starts slaughtering things, presumably because she’s a total badass. Directly following this, we start to see some other new characters talking about the girl, who we now learn is called: Sym. There is talk of the magic and sacrifice used to create her, and we are informed that she has been made to kill some enemy.
It’s divulged that she was fitted with some sort of engine (I’m assuming a Dark Engine, but that could just be me being presumptuous) by one of the characters. This character seems haunted by this engine, which we find out is being used to send Sym back in time in order for her to kill this enemy before they could ruin the world in the way that they did (which is only being expressed through the art at the moment). We learn that the engine is sending Sym into various periods of time until it can somehow right itself, and we’re given a glimpse into the possibility that the engine might actually think for itself.
The comic ends with plenty of mystery after a character nonchalantly states that Sym will likely kill anything she comes in contact with across these time periods (and we actually see her brutally slaying something). Already, I want to know more about how Sym and how she was created. I’m definitely interested in learning about the inner workings of this engine, and what it is capable of. I also want to know exactly who this enemy is and what he used to destroy the world. Really, I just want to know more about everything, and I’m really hoping that the next one comes with a little insight into this interesting world.
So, uh, read this. It’s a good one.
Comic Review: Steed and Mrs. Peel: We Are Needed #1 by Edginton, Cosentino, et al Review by Prof. Jenn
Imagine my delight when I saw this title pop up on BOOM!’s forthcoming comics list! I didn’t know they were making comic versions of this old favorite of mine! Now these, kids, are the real Avengers, as far as I’m concerned, and I had high standards going into this first issue. The TV show was a delicate combination of weirdly out-there almost sci-fi and taut spy thriller/detective procedural, which is a difficult balance to get right (*cough* the 1998 movie *cough*). This writer/artist combo has nailed it.
We begin issue #1 by seeing a murder, not knowing who is involved or why, only that there are dollhouses about. Then we are introduced to our two heroes the way every Steed/Peel episode did on TV: the phrase “Mrs. Peel, we are needed” revealed in a cute and clever way. The story in this first issue unfolds and by the time we get to the end of the issue we definitely are clamoring to see what will happen next. Which is the way the TV show was, too.
The art is colorful and rather “mod” in style, which is perfect for the setting and characters. As you’ve heard me say many times before when reviewing Doctor Who and Firefly comics, it’s a special trick to comic-book-ize a live TV show, as you don’t want to do just an actor portrait, but you don’t want to draw the characters so unlike their actors that they are unrecognizable, either. This issue nails it, again.
Bottom Line: I highly recommend Steed and Mrs. Peel: We Are Needed (why aren’t they calling it The Avengers? Copyright w/Marvel?) and can’t wait for the next issue.
Flash over to Drs. Bashir (Deep Space 9), Crusher (U.S.S. Enterprise), and Pulaski (U.S.S. Repulse) approaching Diamandis Station a bit behind schedule only to find it has been infected by a contagion of unknown origin. Everyone on board has been infected, so they are warning ships not to approach. It seems the only one who has not been incapacitated is “The Doctor”, the hologram that once was the medical officer on the U.S.S. Voyager and now is chief medical officer of Copernicus Station. The Doctor, along with Bashir, Crusher, and Pulaski, have to put their combined medical knowledge together to solve this problem. Things get even more interesting, however, when they find a connection to the original Constitution-Class Enterprise. As you probably remember, Dr McCoy was the medical officer on that ship. Coincidentally he is, at the time of this adventure, an admiral who is retired and living on a nearby planet. He tells the visiting Drs. a story of when he first encountered this illness, and how he worked with Dr Phlox to find a cure.
What I loved most about this story was how it was able to incorporate every doctor we’ve become familiar with throughout Star Trek history, seemingly without even trying. It was an especially nice surprise to see the doctor from the series Enterprise working with McCoy. The best part about this one-shot is you don’t have to be a super fan to enjoy it. Sure, the bigger fans will enjoy seeing history interconnect with itself, but a passing fan will get enjoyment from the story itself. I highly recommend picking this one up at your local comic shop today.